April 27, 2015

Best-Ever Berry Vinaigrette

How to make a salad taste like candy/make non-salad eaters ENJOY greens:

1. Mix up a pourable form of blackberry-raspberry jam with a hint of tangy vinegar to coat its leaves.

 2. Go berry nutty in the topping department. I like some combo of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, toasted walnuts, sugared pecans and/or avocado.

3. Toss it all together, and you might never take your salad a savory direction again.

I inherited a treasure trove in the salad recipe collection of Fancy Nancy (my mother), but this is my favorite to share with friends, mostly because then I get to keep eating off the dressing myself. No bottled or restaurant vinaigrette even comes close.

Props to my gardener roommate for the photo backdrop and my neighbor with excellent taste in kitchen wares for the dishes.

February 15, 2015

Banana Pancakes

Before Jack Johnson decided to sleep in and pretend like it's the weekend, banana pancakes entered the scene of my [breakfast] life. Twenty years later, I blame the October 1995 Cooking Light that still sits on my mom's cookbook shelf for making me think most other pancakes taste like cardboard.

These cakes are creamy and more banana-y than their bread cousins. More than most recipes I post on this blog, they have also stood the test of time and made more visits to my skillet than anything except scrambled eggs.

If you got brownin' bananas, consider smashing them up and pretending it's the weekend now.

February 2, 2015

Crepe Bar

If ever anything were worth savoring, it was this.

The barely sweet confection known is the crepe is the fresh-off-the-press tortilla of all things French and lightly decadent. Swirling its batter in a pan before it, poof, instantly cooks into a delicate final product, time and time again, is a therapeutic exercise, albeit one that requires all hands on deck. It's way worth it though, especially if you munch on crepe scraps while you go.

The whole spread of nuts, fruits and creamy spreads was beautiful to my taste buds, but what I found myself salivating over weeks later was the number one star: Nutella Mousse. Yes, Nutella Mousse, hazlenut-chocolate spread in creamy form. Spread it on a crepe, sprinkle on some strawberries and wrap it up with a chocolate drizzle on top, and you may never crave anything else again. It even transported one person back to Europe, she said.

Warning: If Nutella Mousse miraculously survives its debut and ends up in your fridge, it will quickly and frequently escape for you to violently tear off strips of leftover crepes to dip into it and unite with your tongue.

A spread such as this is perhaps best enjoyed with amongst female company. I often ooh and ahh (literally) over what I taste, but it's rare that other people have equally as expressive reactions like crepes elicit. So epic was this spread that I served it twice in one day, first for breakfast for the ladies in my new home group from church and second for our weekly Sunday evening Downton Abbey watching/face stuff gathering. A crepe bar would also be fun for a shower of some sort.

Side note: Extra Raspberry Syrup and Chocolate Syrup make excellent excuses to make cheesecakes and waffle bars, and might up your hot chocolate intake. Be forewarned in that realm too.

Crepe Bar Elements
Brown Butter Crepes (recipe below)
Whipped Cream
Sliced Strawberries
Sliced Bananas
Chopped Pecans
Sliced Almonds
Powdered Sugar

January 2, 2015

Pepper Jelly Cheesecake

I didn't want to do anything fancy for New Year's Eve, but my pepper jelly did. 

Voila, savory cheesecake.

It's almost as good as the Crabmeat Cheesecake that won me over at Primeaux Cheese & Vino at The Summit (which has a talented chef who seems much older than his 23 years (yes, 23) per my interview for a profile on him for 280 Living).

And the creamy party starter used up my supply of chesse, a find specialty similar to cheddar with an exclusive "chesse" Sharpie-written label from our work holiday party caterer.

P.S. It only took me FIVE months, but I am back to blogging in 2015. I am writing this as an accountability tool going forward.

July 28, 2014

Summer Gratitude: 2014 Edition

Lately I have been grateful...

 For excesses of food, and a family that breeds them

For heaven in the form of fruit growing in Chilton County,  the wonder of a liquid that transforms into its perfect creamy complement and that not all dairy has 0 percent fat

 For thoughtfulness in the form of paper and confection

Dave's Pizza, Homewood, Alabama
 For a reporting job that is frequently delicious

 For friends who show up with bounty like this for a quick lunch, and friends who gift me with beautiful objects on which to capture them

Caprese Grilled Chicken
 For new beginnings that provide a good excuse to use a new grill

June 10, 2014

Cajun Frittata

Some people welcome friends into their arms with heartfelt hugs. I am not one of them. I will reciprocate hugs, preferably side ones, but I might be the world's most awkward hugger. It just doesn't say love to me.

Instead, when a friend is stressed, I want to love on her (or him) by preparing edible comfort. When big deal things happen in others' lives, I find myself crafting something tasty. That's how I roll.

And that is how I found myself toting frittata ingredients to an old white house in small town, Alabama.

Because, of course, when a bride requests you make a frittata on her wedding morning, you prechop onions, pepper and Conecuh sausage, you preshred you some Monterey jack cheese, and you throw your dishes and your eggs and your olive oil in a bag and take them with you.

And as you relish those moments leading up to the BIG moment, that only-happens-once time that is so precious when spent with close friends, you get those close ones well-nourished in a way that says "this is my hug." And also you put flowers in your hair.

You get bonus point if clearing-rain morning light streams into your kitchen for photo opps, even if the lighting in your steaming skillet shot isn't the greatest.

May 11, 2014

Chocolate Cream Comfort

Friday afternoon I returned home to a mildly chaotic sea of flowers. It was wedding eve for my horticulturist of a roommate, and the clock was ticking for team wedding to finish arrangements, bouquets and boutineers before the rehearsal. Add to that news of a possibility of rain for an outdoor ceremony and that the photographer could be stuck in New York for the ceremony, and yeah, the state of the flowers was indicative of the mood in the space.

Enter pie.

Before I stepped into help with direct wedding matters, I went to the fridge to pull out the previous night's treasure,  Saveur's wonder of a chocolate cream pie recipe, encased in an Oreo crust and topped with real-deal whipping cream.

It was what the bride, remembering its previous iteration as squares, had requested for celebrations in her humble honor.

Slices of decadence were distributed, chocolate was consumed, florals were completed and a beauty of a wedding ensued.

I'd like to say that when the seas of my life turn to chaos that I want to turn to a greater, perfect savior, but the truth is I am drawn to seek comfort in the family of chocolate. Cookies, pies, cakes  they are what I crave to satiate my desire for still waters.

Clearly my priorities get mixed up, but thinking of the richness of creamy chocolate reminds me of words a flower party member I had only met the night before told me, "I like that you are the kind of people who pulled out pie in a time like that."

There's a place for words of greater truth, but there's also a place for wordless love in chocolate form.